This was one of the biggest questions I had before going to South Korea, despite having gone there already. Since I would be footing the bill for this journey, I wanted to make the most of my (US) dollars and minimize fees. It wasn’t very apparent what the best method was after searching the internet, but I wanted to be prudent with my money.
Out of all the dealers I’ve come across, I’ve come to the conclusion that making an exchange in cash with the local bank is your best option. Depending on the bank, they also offer multiple discounts and/or benefits. I received a small discount after exchanging a certain amount of dollars with Woori Bank. Even without the discount, the rate is the best I’ve seen compared to other methods. You could shop rates between banks, but in general they will be quite a bit better than anywhere else, locally or abroad. I was able to get around 1040 won per a dollar, when the market rate was around 1057 won per a dollar.The airport in Incheon also had a reasonably good rate as it was only around 2 to 4% (1022~won per a dollar) more than a local branch and if you need some immediate cash, this is definitely a feasible method. I have not tried a wire transfer as of yet, but I assume it will be slightly more expensive after paying wire fees to your local bank (Will update you when I do).
What I don’t recommend is exchanging money in the states as I have been thoroughly ripped off there. I decided to buy Korean won at my local Wells Fargo and when asked if there was a fee, the teller told me there wasn’t. Little did I know, the “fee” was actually built into the exchange rate and I received a paltry 940 won for ever dollar. You may find better rates in the US, but generally I’ve seen better rates at the Korean banks.
Have you found any better methods for exchanging US dollars? Leave a comment below!